Fierce Typhoon Neoguri threatens Japanese island of Okinawa

(CNN) -- A large, powerful typhoon is growing in force as it barrels toward the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Typhoon Neoguri is expected to strengthen into a super typhoon over the course of Sunday, meteorologists say.

By the time it nears Okinawa early Tuesday, it's likely to be generating winds as strong as a Category 5 hurricane.

Okinawa, where multiple U.S. military facilities are situated, regularly finds itself in the path of big typhoons. Many of the buildings on the island are designed to weather the powerful winds that come roaring in off the Western Pacific.

But CNN International Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera warned that Typhoon Neoguri could still be cause for concern for Okinawa residents.

"This is scary stuff because what could happen is that this storm could move just to the west of Okinawa," he said. "That would put Okinawa in the worst possible situation."

Cabrera explained that such a trajectory could drive a significant storm surge over Okinawa's shores.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center projects that by Tuesday, Neoguri could be producing sustained winds as strong as 160 mph (260 kph) with gusts as powerful as 195 mph (315 kph). It could stir up waves as high as 30 feet (9 meters), the center predicted.

"There's nothing in its way" before it reaches Okinawa, Cabrera said. The storm is also expected to bring torrential rains with it.

Astronaut Reid Wiseman in the International Space Center tweeted a dramatic photo of the typhoon viewed from above, showing vast bands of cloud spiraling out from its center.

"#Typhoon Neoguri nearing Japan. Takes up our entire view. Wow," he wrote.

After passing near Okinawa, the typhoon is expected to weaken somewhat as it moves on toward the Japanese mainland. But it could still be packing strong winds when it's forecast to hit Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands, late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Each summer and autumn, heavy storms roll in from the Western Pacific, often causing damage in East Asian countries such as the Philippines, China and Japan.


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